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Thread: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

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    Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    Hi everyone,

    I have a quick question...searchbar failed me, so I'm going to ask.

    I know that part of the "pull" of experiemental airplanes is reduced maintainence costs, because you can do the work yourself. Can you buy a "certified" airplane (Cessna, Piper, whatever) and then "convert" it to experimental by doing the maintainence work yourself?

    I ask because this would get me into the air a lot quicker than building a plane.

    If I understand things properly, going that route would make it so that I could never have it be "certified" status again, which would have a large impact on resale value.

    Is this possible?

    Thanks for any replies!

    Dustin Lobner
    Rockford IL

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    Registered User bmcj's Avatar
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    Re: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    The short answer is "NO". You can sometimes move them into restricted or exhibition categories, but then you have additional restrictions on its use and I am not sure how that affects who may maintain it... it may still need to be an A&P. You cannot move a certified plane into the amateur built field. the closest thing I've seen to this is the Breezy which uses wings and tail feathers off of certified aircraft, but the fuselage is hand built.

    There is some simple maintence you are allowed to do yourself on a certified plane, but it remains a certified plane. If you can find a good deal on a certified plane, find a good AI and have him do the work. The first annual will be a bit expensive, but once he is familiar with the plane and has brought any AD's into compliance, the cost of future annuals will be significantly less. Perhaps the only area you can't reduce is the price of the PMA certified parts.... that's where AB planes really save you money (the ability to use non-PMA's parts).

    There are new and some used AB kits (and plans) available that have significantly reduced build times, Like the Avid Flyer, Kitfox, Legal Eagle, etc. If you have the bucks, there are some programs such as the Glastar assisted build class that cuts your kit-to-taxi time down to a matter of weeks. Of course, you need to check and see if they are still doing this since the FAA has tightened up the builder assist regs.

    Bruce

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    Re: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    Talked with a friend over lunch and he said you could do that...basically, you had to have it reinspected and the airworthiness certificate changed to experimental... ??

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    Moderator addaon's Avatar
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    Re: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    DLrocket, what category experimental are you talking about? You're not going to be able to get it reinspected and have it issued an experimental homebuilt certificate... because it's not homebuilt.

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    Re: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    Sorry guys for silly question, but what if someone theoretically disassemble 51% of the airplane and next put it back together.

    Seb
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    Super Moderator orion's Avatar
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    Re: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    As addaon pointed out, the "experimental" category is only for homebuilts, meaning of course you have to build (or assemble) more than 51% of the airframe. There are various subcategories within the "experimental" field but those are applicable only if you have a warbird, are doing research and development, or are flying exhibition. For general use though, none of those are applicable and they are also rather restrictive so again, it would not be in your interest to go that route.

    Otherwise, I'm pretty sure if you approach the FAA with the idea you will get an emphatic no. They even frown on using major certified parts on the experimental airplanes (you can't take a 172 wing and put in on your Bearhawk), although the Breezy seems to be an exception (although there i think you still need to assemble the wing).

    The only place I know of where a production airplane can be registered in an owner-maintained category is up in Canada. But then those airplanes cannot be sold down here in the US unless they're brought back into the certified status.
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    Re: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mac790 View Post
    Sorry guys for silly question, but what if someone theoretically disassemble 51% of the airplane and next put it back together.

    Seb
    Well, that is one possible route to go but since all the pieces are there and already pre-formed, the FAA will generally require you to disassemble it totally. A local gentleman took apart and totally restored a Taylorcraft and given the amount of work, the FAA allowed him to do it under the experimental category.
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    Moderator addaon's Avatar
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    Re: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    Actually, for the record, I talked to the local FSDO very informally about converting a certified aircraft to experimental / research & development (for my Masters project), and got an answer that I'll summarize as "yes, this is easy, but among the restrictions we'll give, we'll peg you to within 25 miles of a chosen airport, and you'll never be able to lift that restriction or recertify again."

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    Registered User djschwartz's Avatar
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    Re: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    This thread is closely related and may answer your question.

    http://www.homebuiltairplanes.com/fo...homebuilt.html

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    Re: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mac790 View Post
    Sorry guys for silly question, but what if someone theoretically disassemble 51% of the airplane and next put it back together.

    Seb
    "disassemble" and "reassemble" does not count as work under the 51% rule. The rule relates to fabrication tasks. Also the FAR's clearly state that to obtain an experimental amateur built airworthiness certificate the aircraft cannot have previously had an airworthiness certificate in any other category. You can use parts from a previously certificated aircraft but you do not get any credit towards the 51% for such parts. So, using the above mentioned T-craft as an example, once the aircraft was complete it was no longer legally a Taylorcraft. It was a "joe's homebuilt" (or whatever) that was built from a collection of parts and for which the builder performed sufficient fabrication work to meet the current interpretation of the 51% rule. The previously licensed T-craft no longer existed legally.
    Last edited by djschwartz; March 24th, 2010 at 06:32 PM.

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    Registered User Mac790's Avatar
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    Re: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    Quote Originally Posted by djschwartz View Post
    The rule relates to fabrication tasks.
    What about quick build kits? Like for example Van's quick build kits, I don't see too many parts which you have to fabricate.

    Seb
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?-rv-7_quickbuild_lg.jpg  
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    Super Moderator orion's Avatar
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    Re: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    Quote Originally Posted by djschwartz View Post
    "disassemble" and "reassemble" does not count as work under the 51% rule. The rule relates to fabrication tasks. Also the FAR's clearly state that to obtain an experimental amateur built airworthiness certificate the aircraft cannot have previously had an airworthiness certificate in any other category. You can use parts from a previously certificated aircraft but you do not get any credit towards the 51% for such parts. So, using the above mentioned T-craft as an example, once the aircraft was complete it was no longer legally a Taylorcraft. It was a "joe's homebuilt" (or whatever) that was built from a collection of parts and for which the builder performed sufficient fabrication work to meet the current interpretation of the 51% rule. The previously licensed T-craft no longer existed legally.
    Yes, exactly, and that was how it was registered - it was no longer the original Taylorcraft but something that happened to look like it. Seems like bureaucratic paper shuffling but it worked for this owner.
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    Re: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    Wow, some really confused advice in this thread. :-(

    There are several categories of "Experimental". If you're a pilot, or going to be a pilot, you need to get familiar with the regulations that apply to pilots. I presume you propose to register your rebuilt certified airplane in the "Experimental-Amateur Built" category. Read 14 CFR 21.121(g) and you should be able to figure out the answer
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    Re: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    And just to stir the pot: I talked to a fellow the other day here at Coorna, whose gorgeous Waco I saw insitting in his hangar. He restored it from a number of original parts, and a lot of scratch built ones and an original, but blank Waco data plate, correct for the type. The restoration is flawless and he had the data plate carefully and neatly engraved. The FAA won't accept this an an original Waco that has been restored. He has had a legal battle for over a year, even involving attorneys. If he had taken the original new plate and scuffed it up and crudely punched in the numbers, the FAA would have accepted it as original. To really aggravate him; a friend in WA also built a Waco like his, but from scratch; a perfect reproduction. He even found an unused N-number from an original Waco and applied for it and received it. When he applied for a an airworthiness certificate with that number they gave him a Standard Category certificate! He now has a homebuilt Waco that is registered as an original. He didn't believe this at first, but checked it out and it's perfectly true.

    A lot depends on the individual FAA person you get to talk to; they have pretty wide ranging latitudes in their decision making, it seems.
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    Moderator Dana's Avatar
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    Re: Buy certified airplane and convert to experimental?

    One can "restore" an aircrafft from not much more than the original data plate and [I think] some sort of proof of ownership. In the case of the first Waco, did he have an original registration and N-number? If no, then it's a homebuilt even if it has some original parts. In the second case, he had the original N-number; did he have the original data plate too? Then it's a restoration even if nothing else is original. Of course it depends on the local FAA guy, too. I know the folks at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome have "restored" a number of aircraft starting from the data plate and nothing else... and use them commercially, selling biplane rides.

    Back to the original question: As others have pointed out there are a number of experimental classifications, but only two are really useful for the individual. The most well known is Experiental-Amateur Built (E-AB), which says you must do the "majority" of the work to build it. Even a kit plane isn't eligible if it's all prefabricated parts and you just put it together, you hae to do at least some fabrication... though as in all things it sometimes comes down to the judgement of the local FAA guy.

    The other is Experimental-Exhibition. You don't have to build it yourself, but you have to have a reason for it... usually "exhibition" of an unusual or special purpose type. The operating limitations can be pretty severe; you have to give the FAA a list of places you will "exhibit" it every year and you can't fly it anywhere else, except local flying (in a "local" area they define) to maintain proficiency. This is the route taken by a lot of warbird owners who can't get standard airworthiness certificates for their planes.

    There are other classes, racing, manufacturer's R&D prototypes, etc., but there are a lot more specialized and restrictive.

    There is one more flavor that nobody has mentioned. Experimental-Light Sport Aircraft (ELSA). This is primarily for "fat ultralight" aircraft that were registered as ELSA before the deadline and approved new ELSA kits, but it is also possible to take a factory produced "Special" Light Sport Aircraft (SLSA) and do a one time paperwork conversion to an ELSA, which then allows the owner to do all his own maintenance. I'm not sure of the exact rules, but I believe it can only be done if the manufacturer also offers the aircraft as a kit, or if the manufcturer no longer exist.

    It's also possible to convert an aircraft with a standard airworthiness certiicate into a "primary" category airworthiness certificate if it meets the rules (motly small two seaters), which doesn't make it experimental but does increase the scope of permitted owner maintenance. I don't remember the details, but I was considering it when I owned my Taylorcraft.

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